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Paradisus Palma Real Review - July 23, 2009

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#1 violet183

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    Posted 10 August 2009 - 04:50 PM

    While I didn’t post much on this site while I was engaged, I did check it obsessively, multiple times a day, so I figure now is my time to give back and post my review!

    I was married at Paradisus Palma Real on Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 5pm, and we had 46 guests. You can check out some pics on Juan Guzman-Wedding Photographer in Dominican Republic. We are the “Randi and Jeff” wedding on the right.

    Group Reservations/Check In:

    I was originally referred to a woman named Vivian Ross at destinationweddings.com. I was nervous about having so many people booking on their own. In retrospect, I don’t really think you need a travel agent. This is not a complicated, multi-leg trip. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a much better rate on my own (through a group rate), and needless to say, Vivian was not happy (nor nice) about losing so many clients. She later tried to backtrack and say she could try to get me a better rate, but I told her sorry, you told me at the time that was the best rate. If you could have secured a better rate, you should have done it then. I’m not normally so rude, but she just really rubbed me the wrong way from day one, when I asked why her rate was $1,000 more than expedia’s and she told me I’m paying her “for her services.” I told her this was a simple trip and really, my guests just wanted the cheapest price. Anyway, moving on…

    I ended up reserving a room block back in December through Group Sales (woman named Rita Rodriguez). She was AMAZING. I got a rate of $183 per person, per night in a double, and $234 per person for a single. The max occupancy was 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. The 3rd adult received 25% the daily rate, so came to $137.25 for that person. This was a huge discount off of what I was seeing on travel websites (and through agents).

    Rita was really great. I did have to leave a large deposit, which was definitely nerve-wracking. You have to leave 15% of the total cost of the rooms you booked. So I blocked out 20 rooms and had to leave just over $5k. The charges get applied to the cost of your wedding. I must have made her revise the contract three or four times, but the bottom line is, you’re not held to booking 20 rooms. I asked her in about 10 different ways. You are responsible for booking at least 11 rooms to secure the group rate. After that, you are just required to release any open rooms 30 days prior to the reservation, so that the public can book. Fair enough.

    Another big thing with the group rate is that the bride and groom get upgraded! We ended up being upgraded from a regular garden-view room, to an oceanview, Royal Service room. I have to tell you, Royal Service is awesome. More on that later.

    I’d say about 90% of the check-in went smoothly. I had added my cousin the week prior to the wedding as a triple on another room, and they had absolutely no record of it. We also had a few rooms that were still not ready by 4pm and they kept telling my friends “come back in 20 minutes.” Finally I told them it was unacceptable and they needed to put them in another room. My friend ended up in a beautiful 1 bedroom suite with a kitchen. They eventually just added my cousin onto the other room, but one of the general themes of the hotel seemed to be that things were WAY more complicated than they needed to be. Don’t get me wrong – the place is absolutely beautiful. But there were some service issues.

    My check in was amazing. The Royal Service lounge was beautiful and we had absolutely no problems. We were whisked away by our butler and our room was ready about an hour after we checked in. The Royal Service rooms are identical to the regular rooms, but with different colored linens. The whole butler thing is a novelty at first but not that worth it. It was nice getting chocolate covered strawberries one night, and fruit another, but for me, what was best about Royal Service was the private pool and beach. We didn’t end up using it that much because our guests came after two days, but it was amazing while it lasted. Big couch-like bali beds with thatched roofs, drink service, small pool – much more private and honeymoon like than the regular pool.


    I’m going to be totally honest on the food, and let me preface this by saying I am a complete New York food snob. I obsessively plan all my trips for work and vacations around the best restaurants. My mom calls me Mrs. Zagat. So for me, this was the main downside to the resort. The food ranged from not good at all (Passions), to ok (Vento, Aqua, and buffet), to very good (wedding and Gabi Beach). But here’s the thing…I was not that disappointed. You have to manage your expectations and realize that you are in the Dominican Republic, and “5 star food” is not the same as that in the US. I’ll give you an example. One night they moved us to Aqua (a restaurant in the Reserve) and I ordered something where the description was like “Grade A Japanese tuna sashimi served with an avocado mousse.” Sounded delicious. Ended up looking like a spoonful of Chicken of the Sea tunafish with this gelatinous thing underneath it. But then I just started laughing because did I really expect them import a nice hunk of pink tuna from Japan? The rest of the meal was decent and I was with great company, which is all that really matters!


    There was only one thing that happened the whole trip (and it was not even wedding-related) that really got me worked up. As I mentioned earlier, my family and I ate at Aqua in the Reserve one night because they did not have reservations anywhere else. It seemed the resort was very busy that week and they were trying to accommodate people wherever they could. So the day I arrived (Sunday), I spoke to my butler and asked him if he could book a reservation for 19 people on Wednesday at any restaurant. I figured it would be Bana because I had heard that was the only place where so many people could fit. He came back and said he got a reservation at 6:00pm at Gabi Beach. He clearly knew that the other 17 people were not Royal Service guests and I thought this was just a nice gesture to accommodate my party, considering the fact that a) I spent over $10k on a wedding B) I booked 21 rooms, and c) I knew the resort was very booked and they had already put us at Aqua one day for dinner, which is part of the Reserve.

    Anyway, we all got to the restaurant at 6pm and they told us it would be 5 minutes. I saw the hostess on the phone and she came up to me right after and told me the restaurant was for Royal Service only. I told her I knew that but that my butler made this the day we arrived for my whole family, and he was aware of the fact that we were not all Royal Service.

    We stood there for another 30 minutes and I watched her on the phone with her manager. Finally she came over to me at 6:35pm and said she was very sorry but there was nothing she could do. I was literally almost on the verge of tears. I told her very calmly that I knew it was not her fault and that she was very nice, but that she should just get whoever on the phone that I needed to speak to right away. I told her that this was obviously a mistake but that there was nowhere else that could accommodate my family for dinner and this restaurant was completely empty. I must have said about 3 times “this is not happening right now.” I was trying not to cry. Finally she called my wedding coordinator (THANK YOU Noelia), and she came over and within 2 minutes we were all seated. Needless to say the food was delicious (it really was…the lobster is amazing down there), and my dad left the waiter a huge tip. I just kept thinking what a sour taste this would have left in my mouth for the next day (the wedding!) if they hadn’t accommodated us.

    The Wedding:
    I was surprisingly not that nervous when I heard that Viviana had left and Noelia was starting fresh as the new coordinator. She showed up at the Royal Service lounge the day I checked in and gave me a huge hug. We were supposed to meet the next morning but it turns out that she got called away to the Paradisus Punta Cana for a crisis (the only rabbi in the Dominican picked up and moved to Israel with his family and she needed a new one asap!). She had actually sent a note to my room but it went to my dad’s room instead (I have a unisex name – Randi – so I think they got a little mixed up sometimes and thought I was the groom. Oh well.) Anyway I dropped my stuff off with her staff and they were total sweethearts.

    I met her the next morning and we went over everything – menu, decorations, etc. She also gave me the invoice but I knew right away that Teresa (the interim coordinator) had not told her that I was quoted 2008 prices. She redid the whole invoice and sent it to my room that night. No problems at all – everything was what was quoted. I had literally a book of emails printed out but I did not have to produce one of them. I’d still recommend printing them though!

    So the day of the wedding went as smooth as it could have. I met the photographer (Juan Guzman – THE BEST…contact me for more details) in the morning to settle up some $ and we had appointments at the spa shortly after. Girls make sure you leave enough time for the spa! I was supposed to be picked up by Noelia at 4:45pm but needless to say, I did not get back to the room until then. I pretty much threw on my dress and had very little time for pictures. There were only 2 girls working in the spa that day so we had 2 appointments for hair at 1:30pm, 2 appointments for hair at 2:30pm, and 2 appointments for makeup at 3:30pm. This was supposed to be more than enough time but both of my sisters have very long, thick hair and they both went over. Then my second sister did not like her hair at all and started getting upset. Truth was her hair looked nothing like the picture that she gave the girl but there was not much time to fix it. So the girl felt bad and kept trying to re-do her hair…long story short we were running very late. Try to get Cristella to do your hair/makeup if you can. She was great. This drove me nuts as I am on time for EVERYTHING and I could not bear the thought of being late for my own wedding.

    Anyway when I finally walked down the aisle we were not that late after all, and I could not believe how stunning it was. I had my best friend and her husband playing violin and guitar and it was beautiful. They arranged the U2 song “All I Want is You” (our first dance song) into a more upbeat version for our recessional.

    There was a new judge that day and he was not great with the script. I’d changed/crossed off a lot of things on the standard language Noelia showed me and he just read it anyway. Then Noelia would just like, not translate it, and it was kind of funny because most of my friends know enough Spanish to know that she was not saying exactly what he said. Then he messed up my husband’s name (Jeff). He said something like “We are here today to celebrate the marriage of Randi and…Jeff. No, Jeremy. Jeffrey.” People kind of just chuckled. I would normally think this would totally upset me but it surprisingly didn’t…it was amazing how relaxed I got in the Dominican. The other “funny” thing that happened while we were reading our personal vows was that a party boat decided to stop about 100 feet away from shore. The only result was that nobody could really hear us saying our vows, but then again, we heard each other’s and that’s all that really matters. The whole ceremony lasted maybe 10 minutes, but the tears were flowing freely.

    They carted everyone off to happy hour on Gabi terrace and we took some pictures. I had paid for 2 carving stations and 8 passed appetizers (upgraded the Aqua package) but I noticed immediately that there were only 4 passed ones. Then when we went to sit down I noticed that there were tall, round vases and not the low, square ones I’d asked for. Not a huge deal and it looked nice anyway. I also noticed the oriental lighting that I had paid for was not up either. I was excited about how that was going to look and Noelia just said that she had tried putting it up but it didn’t look good. Funny because I saw a wedding in the same exact location the next night and the lighting was up and looked great. I think it was because she thought it was going to rain the night of my wedding and did not want to hassle with putting it up if we were moving. Needless to say it didn’t rain until 12am, well after the wedding was over – and we benefited from a nice, cool breeze at the wedding. (By the way, I was immediately refunded back the $ for both the cocktail hour and the oriental lighting).

    The wedding was on Gabi beach and we had buffet option #1. I was nervous about doing a buffet but they could not do a plated dinner on the beach (too far from the kitchen they told me) and I was not willing to compromise on that. We also added the grill for $10 per person extra and that was GREAT – lobster, ribs, salmon, etc. A big hit.

    The cake looked ok. Probably not worth the $400 I paid to upgrade but it was good enough. By the time we cut the cake we were barely even paying attention because we were having so much fun.

    We had DJ Mannia and he was great also. I wrote a separate review of him on the Dominican boards. I’m sure I’m forgetting a million things – I hope it does not seem like I am only pointing out the negatives. EVERYONE said this was the best wedding they’d ever been to and it was truly the best setting. Just be relaxed – no amount of planning will get you exactly what you imagined. But it will be just as beautiful.

    La Barcaza Yacht:

    I’ll make this one quick but we reserved the boat for the Saturday night before everyone was leaving for a sunset cruise. This was such a great way to end the trip. There were 30 of us still there and they picked us up in little boats at the hotel and brought us out to the yacht. They had a great grilled dinner and we brought an Ipod, which they hooked up. Open bar, swimming…absolutely beautiful.

    If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact me! I’m sure I’m forgetting a million things. The bottom line is just relax – there are going to be problems you can’t even anticipate, but everything will turn out absolutely beautiful.

    #2 DRod0214

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      Posted 10 August 2009 - 07:41 PM

      im so glad everything worked out, congrats and the both of you look beautiful.

      #3 violet183

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        Posted 10 August 2009 - 09:00 PM

        Aw thank you so much! If you have any questions let me know!

        #4 flbluiiis

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        • 184 posts

          Posted 10 August 2009 - 09:19 PM

          Great review! Thank you so much for posting :) This is one of the resorts I'm considering. Congrats!!!

          #5 NyBeachBride

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            Posted 10 August 2009 - 11:25 PM

            congrats, eveyrthign looks amazing....was it easy dancing on the sand? was it dark on the sand or could peopel see each other? was it hot outside? im getting married there in april, thats why all the questions and im doing the beach recpetion and ceremony....were there mosquitos whiel u were in the sand?

            #6 NyBeachBride

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              Posted 11 August 2009 - 12:41 AM

              also, your aqua package didnt have any blue in it, did you request that? was the cake upgraded meanign done by a different bakery or by the same resort? was it fondant? how much did you ruffly spend on the cermony/reception? thx for your answers!

              #7 violet183

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                Posted 11 August 2009 - 07:18 AM

                Hi babie, we actually had a dancefloor on the sand and it was really easy. It probably would have been hard dancing on the sand because it was kind of hot. It wasn't SO hot out, but people were definitely sweating. It wasn't dark - they had put up a bunch of lights and it was totally fine. I didn't see any mosquitos and nobody got bit that night but we had maybe 3-4 people in the group who were really bitten by the end of the trip.
                Yeah as far as the aqua package, all I wanted was a plain setup at the beach with a white runner and rose petals, rose bouquets, and for the centerpieces, white linens with roses and candles. There was no additional charge, they just subbed it for the aqua items. The cake was done by the resort but was not one of two traditional ones they offer. It wasn't fondant, it was icing - I don't think they do fondant there.
                I spent just over 10k - that included some big ticket things like $900 for the dancefloor. That did not include photographer or DJ. Let me know if you have any more questions!

                #8 Lindsay521

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                  Posted 11 August 2009 - 10:01 AM

                  Thank you for sharing this and do I have some questions.
                  1) Do you have any other pictures you could share? More specifically of your set up for the reception? I am doing the Aqua package as well but like you I want to go kind of plain and just use white linens with tea candles and rose petals on the table. You said they substituted for you but others say that you are not allowed to substitute, how did that work?
                  2) I am having my reception at the Gabi Terrace. Do you know if they do the plated food option there and do you by any chance have the food menus for the non buffet?
                  3) How much did DJ Mania cost you? Is that something you would recommend or do you think an IPod would be ok. We were going to go with the Ipod due to cost and most people say that is fine. I was also thinking of paying for the cheapest DJ option just so we have someone controlling the songs.

                  Thanks again and I might have a lot more questions for you.
                  Lindsay and Seth
                  March 28, 2010 - Paradisus Palma Real, Punta Cana

                  #9 *Nadine*

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                    Posted 11 August 2009 - 10:17 AM

                    Congrats! Your pics are beautiful :) I love the color of your bmaid dresses!

                    #10 shanelle

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                      Posted 12 August 2009 - 11:53 AM

                      What a great and detailed review! Thank you for this
                      Did you do a civil or symbolic ceremony? What type of paper work did you have to do? (if you did do a civil)

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